When you run a small business, manage a few dozen accounts, shepherd a travel basketball playing teenager, and work behind the scenes on two non-profit leadership teams it’s easy to go from thing to thing and place to place. You’re deeply connected to your calendar and it can both tether you and tie you down.
I work in a creative environment.
Around me are musicians and artists and photographers and foodies and writers. Up and down our little two block, one-way street there is creativity galore. While I may be among the least of these fine folks, I do often think about solving problems and making things better. It’s a different kind of creativity, but it still falls in that general category.
Peace and quiet.
Whether you consider yourself a creative individual or not, I can promise you this. You need space to be able to get perspective and address those hard to solve problems or situations.
Earlier this year I was at a jazz concert at the Jefferson Center and in the weeks leading up to that evening I had been running about like a wild man. It took probably three songs to quiet my soul. Once my soul was quiet, my brain opened up. Before I knew it I had a range of new and exciting ideas, a fresh approach to a challenging situation at work, and a new way to connect with a client.
Interestingly enough, once those things were out of my brain, I was able to really enjoy the show. It was a great night all around.
And it was an important reminder of the value of room to solve problems or create exciting things.
Just Have2 Say It
There is a commonly seen logo that I simply love.I love everything about it. I love how different divisions have the same branding, but with a significant color variation. I love how simple it is and how the font is direct and clean and vibrant and colorful.It’s true that my attention to this logo in particular (and any logo in general) likely makes me a marketing geek. I’m okay with that.But above all, I love the hidden image in it and over the past decade or so I’ve asked others if they see the cleverly-integrated reverse icon. I’d say at least half can already identify it, but those who haven’t are able to see it right away when it’s pointed out. It’s the arrow inside FedEx.
The best part is, once you see it – you can never “un-see” it. That arrow, situated so smartly between the “e” and the “x” of the delivery giant’s name, becomes so clear it can’t be ignored.
More than a Brand4 You
One of the things we work to do in our marketing and advertising creation is to engage the recipient’s brain. It’s important the branding you use to represent your company or organization has layers with new bits and pieces revealed to the viewer over time. It is one of the best ways to subtly connect with the busy brains you are trying to reach.The creator of the FedEx branding obviously knew what they were doing, but they didn’t scream it. Instead, they left it there for the implied message of speed and accuracy. A deeper look into the optical illusion might suggest that there’s a way forward and a powerful direction with the FedEx branding. And the way the company has used it – so cleanly, so simply, and so directly – only proves up their message.It’s why I love it so much. And why I don’t really care if you think I am geek about all of this marketing stuff.
Doing2Things at Once
It’s really a made-up phrase. In my mind, I’ve come to the realization I simply cannot do it. (I’m pretty sure those of you who are reading this can’t either, no matter how much you think you can.)
Multitasking? Nah. Sometimes we can do multiple things in a really fast sequence, but when we try to do two jobs at one time neither typically gets the proper attention.
The other night I was listening to the news, while trying to do something else I’m sure, and I heard a statistic – Pedestrian Traffic Deaths are at a 25 Year High in the United States. The anchor stated marijuana has something to do with the increase, but even bigger is the impact of texting and walking. These experts took all the fun out of texting and driving and now they don’t even want us to text and walk.
That’s because it’s not safe. You can’t do two things – especially like that – at once.
They are simple really. One is for advertisers and the other is for people engaged in any kind of business.
1) Your advertising had better interrupt because, if you’re lucky, people are only halfway paying attention to start. Grab their attention first and then try to begin the process of winning over their hearts and minds.
2) Focus on one thing at a time when the one thing is something that requires your attention. Sometimes you can walk and chew gum (or text), but when your mind needs to be engaged it is best to absolutely do one thing at a time. Otherwise you’ll end up doing neither particularly well.
They say advertising isn’t life and death. Generally that’s true, though even that can depend on what multitasking duties you marketing and business people are trying to accomplish. Focus completely instead. You will be better at most everything you do.
Decide2Be an Expert
Things seem to happen so fast these days.Of course that’s what people have been saying for generations so it’s kind of hard to tell if it’s really true or just how it “feels”. This I can say…there are so many new things to process and master I really don’t think the average person can do it all.In the marketing and advertising world we’ve seen a proliferation of platforms and tools and ways to get a client’s message to the interested (and possibly the not-aware-they-are-interested) people who are out there. Whether it is traditional media, social media, new media, digital media, or some other yet-to-be-named media, the fact is there are a lot of things to keep track of and I’m convinced one person simply cannot be an expert at everything.
I’m not saying you should learn everything. And I’m not suggesting you should quit adding new business lines or specialties.
What I am saying is that there is some benefit to “staying in your lane” and focusing on the core business areas that built your organization and sustained it through the years. Once you’ve got those areas under control (I realize that’s a relative term), then yes, you can evaluate the areas in which you can extend.After all, if my company had only bought electronic media like I planned almost nine years ago, we’d never have legitimately added website design and marketing services, video production, print design, event marketing, and even filmmaking to our list of deliverables.Always look to growth and areas of expansion, yes, but realize also that one person (or even one company) cannot do everything. Recognize as a leader when it makes the most sense to go outside your department or company to get a better solution. And be wise about what you add to your key markets.It’s the fastest way to ensure your continued relevance and success – and keep your sanity.
It's been nearly nine years since my mother, Mary Sue Bryan, died.
I constantly think about the many things she taught me over the years. But most recently, one lesson in particular has come to the surface.
It's especially meaningful now that I am nearly 50 years old. She would say, "You have to learn something new every day." Followed by, "You can't go to sleep until you learn something new."
Whether it was through reading or listening or perhaps even watching TV, I'd figure out a new concept then smile and say to mom, "I can go to bed now."
It's easy to get into a routine. Patterns - good and bad ones both - form before we know it. Before too long they simply become the "way we do things around here". The fastest way to break a routine is to learn new things. As we get older that gets harder to do - not because there is less to learn, but because our approach has been grounded and formed.
New concepts. New forms of media. New ways to message and advertise.
All these options leave us with a basic choice.
Do we keep doing what we've been doing and stay comfortable with the way we've always done business, or do we embrace learning and stretch ourselves? Careful... that's a trick question. You don't really have a choice. You have to adapt and you must embrace learning and the new. Otherwise, you'll be swallowed up and your business left behind. So go ahead and try it. Learn something new.
Then you can go to sleep.
Many of you know before I started this company my main responsibility was to recruit, build and develop sales talent at the advertising departments of television stations. In five places throughout the last twenty plus years, I have seen the elements that create a culture in an organization and the steps needed to implement change to that environment.
Every organization has a culture.
The common theme I encountered at each station was a fallback statement you’ve likely heard at your company or organization – maybe even recently. How often when you ask a question about why someone does something in a certain way do you hear, “well…that’s the way we’ve always done it”? Usually it’s just the default answer – but that statement should force a simple question from you.
“Why? Why are we doing it this way?”
Doing things the same way because, “it’s the way we’ve always done it” is not a good answer for you or your people. Demand real evaluation of processes and follow up. Seek better ways to achieve your goals and be sure you’re pushing your company beyond where you’ve been. This is the perfect time to evaluate how you have been advertising and marketing yourselves. There are plenty of options and new ways to connect with your customers, clients and prospects.
Music Moves People.
It’s especially true in your advertising. Too often businesses or organizations just add music – almost as an afterthought – to their commercial messages. Whether your announcement needs “background” music or you are using the lyric as the hook…give original music a closer examination. Here is an example of a familiar commercial that uses music to effectively drive the message. It runs on network television, but your locally produced campaign needs to sound just as good to get the consumer’s attention.
www.youtube.com/b2ctelevision - click on the “Travelers” commercial to see (and hear) for yourself.
Some commercials cut through the clutter better than others. You hear the first few notes and immediately recognize the advertiser. That impact comes from creative messaging, strategic placement and a consistent presence. If your advertising is missing or going in “fits and starts” in any one of these areas, it might be time for a fresh approach.
Super Bowl Champion Coach Bill Belichick teaches the concept that “ideas should be innocent until proven guilty”. It’s true – really. People are too often afraid of ideas. Fresh ideas are usually followed by change and change is not a friend to many. Ideas in and of themselves are not the culprit. It is what organizations, leaders and people do with those ideas that really determine change.
Does your company value fresh thought? Are your people open to being innovative? Do you usher a spirit of collaboration?
This is the exact right time to begin to open your organization to new and out of the ordinary concepts and thoughts. Whether it is a new product launch, a new approach or continuing business development as before – be open to new ideas and create a culture where fear is set aside and an open mind to how you can grow your business or organization is embraced.
How do you possibly say “a picture is worth a thousand words” without repeating that trite saying?
The answer is you show, demonstrate, create emotion, and build a connection. A top notch photograph as the focal point of your advertising campaign typically does the trick. Don’t get me wrong – engaging copy can do a great job drawing your audience in or helping them to take action, but the value of an integrated photograph is too often underestimated.
This is Libby. She is a six year old cancer survivor from Roanoke, Virginia.
Rather than telling everyone how much good the Children’s Miracle Network is doing, the organization ( www.carilionclinic.org/Carilion/cmn ) made the decision to connect with their audience through Libby. This photograph used in a local billboard campaign, captures the essence of Libby and builds an emotional tie to the Children’s Miracle Network and the Clinic.
If you’d like to evaluate if custom photography or building a “bank of images” for future use by your company or organization would make sense you can visit www.brettwinterlemon.com and see some more of his work and speak with him directly. Using creative photography can make a huge impact…for ideas on integrating photography and other creative concepts.
All these tools were designed to make things easier.
Blackberries, iPods, iPads, Facebook, Texting and Email all make communication and catching people in a hurry much easier (usually). The problem is we are all going non-stop and the pace of life swirls around us – sometimes even overwhelming us.
With all this time for doing…when do you ever get a chance to think?
If you have read my previous issues, you’ve read as I wrote about the power of the good idea. Some of my best ideas have come during times of quiet. About 12 years ago I was on the tractor when the solution hit me. An advertising agency was spending a huge amount of money on another station and we couldn’t figure out a counter. I loved the idea that flashed in my mind so much, I turned off the mower, got off my tractor, went inside and wrote it down for later.
During the holidays and in early January it is easy for you to get even busier. Resist that temptation and find some thinking time. Gather yourself – unplug that computer one day a week in 2011 – or simply go for a walk. Your brain has ideas in it, they just need time and space and quiet to surface. Make a plan to step back. You’ll be glad you did.
To finish the story that started while I was doing yard work…that advertising agency 12 years ago loved the idea, moved their base buys over to my television station for over ten years (well after I was gone) – keeping the plan in place that came to me in the middle of cutting grass.
Focus2FinishWe would talk about it.
My managers and I would meet to decide where to shine the flashlight. Everyone, no matter their performance level, has a limited capacity. The concept almost always played out as expected – what you as a manager focus on determines where the team will put its attention. Where you direct your efforts, the team will follow.
It’s why it is so important to regularly decide where your energy should go.
Time4ChangeDecide what needs your focus then use accountability and a sustained gaze to drive the necessary change. If you are in a sales or fundraising operation --- a good manager needs to know when to push forward, when to praise a high performer, and when to ease up on the team. If you are in operations or production, it’s important you constantly monitor where the break downs are happening and how your focus can correct the process.
Your people will do what you drive them to accomplish. Otherwise they aren’t the right people for you.
Too often as leaders we get sidetracked on unimportant or insignificant things – instead practice focusing your efforts and in turn helping your team see where they need to go and on what they need to concentrate.
True change and definable results will follow.
People in leadership overuse sports vernacular when dealing with business questions. Things like “no pain no gain”, “step up your game”, “hit a home run”, and the rest you have heard. What is interesting to me is when sports people use sound business principals in their programs.
For a few years back in the mid-nineties (yes I am that old) my path crossed with probably the most intense individual I have ever known. Nick Saban was the head football coach at Michigan State University at the time we worked together and has gone on to build a number of very successful college football teams. In fact he has won three of the last nine College Football Championships. I read recently about his approach to installing his “process” everywhere he goes. He sets goals and provides job descriptions for everyone associated with his football program. He brings in the right people, equips them properly, tracks and monitors their growth, and holds them accountable.
That is the proper way to achieve success on the football field and in business.
“You have to pay the price up front,” Saban said (in Sports Illustrated, August 20, 2012). “Everybody wants to do it. Not everybody is willing to do what they have to do to do it.”
Organizations talk a good “change” game and some even bring in a team to help them implement change. Rare is the company that can actually stomach the beginning, middle and end of the process of changing the culture of a business. As Saban says, it’s hard work. Things never stay the same – you simply must adapt and change to succeed. Are you willing to do what is needed to bring the change?
Notice I said simple – not easy.
Through the years I have kept a series of folders and files labeled “ideas” or “creative concepts”. Whether it was for a talk, a sales concept or a creative idea, when I came across something that really caught my eye or grabbed my attention, I filed it away – never knowing when it might become useful. Those recycled ideas – often rebuilt for a different purpose have served me well.
Earlier this year, I met a man from Minnesota named Jim Link. Jim has written a book Idea-Links: The New Creativity. He has perfected this creative process and is helping Fortune 500 and small organizations alike figure new ways to solve problems.
Creative Solutions4Your Business
His approach capitalizes on experience. According to him, creativity isn’t produced through wacky off-the-wall brainstorming sessions, but through observing experiences to arrive at new solutions to some of these old and troubling problems.
Bolstered by your inner-curiosity and assisted by this fresh approach, you have many more tools at your disposal for solving that troubling issue or finding a new path to deal with that challenge you are facing. While motivational speeches are fun, the impact rarely lasts. The disciplines used in applying Jim’s principles are lasting and relevant to all types of situations. Check out his book and see for yourself – or better yet look into having him come present his ideas in person to your leadership or sales team.
What you need could already be around you – ready to be discovered by observing and then following the New Crea
There has been a big snow storm in the east and southeast. A lot of my readers from the Midwest think I am overstating it, but we recently got about two feet of snow here in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia. That means there's a lot of shoveling to be done. Doing yard work (or snow removal) is frequently when I do my best thinking.
It's when the good or most creative ideas come. Your brain needs space and time to get into a different place.
Often a good idea - with some editing, revising or tweaking - becomes a great idea. That's how it works. When shared, the creative process lends itself to a tightening or honing of the idea. Whether it is a slight shift here or a font change there, the good becomes great.
Then something else happens - like those times when you stare at a common word long enough it somehow appears almost unrecognizable to you. The simple becomes complex again and the urge to edit more takes over.
A Creative Tip4You
Fight that urge.
Be sure you aren't overanalyzing. The simplicity of a good idea, tightened up and presented is typically your best approach. In these busy days, the beauty and recognition of a swoosh, arches or a straightforward saying like "have it your way" really can be the answer.
While it's critical the branding and messaging be on target and connect with your audience, it isn't always necessary to put everything creative into a committee. Branding by consensus is never a good idea. Put your thought into it and do your research. Improve it and revise it. Then when you reach that magical point, know when to stop thinking.
Time2Get That Idea
Sometimes I wonder when the idea will hit me.
In late 2009, I wrote my first B2Seed. Since then I've written over 60 columns and even in the months (like last month) when I wonder if I'll have anything to share, something strikes me. It's usually simple, occasionally profound, but whatever it is becomes practical, helpful, and thought provoking.
The goal is to help and to motivate.
The source is unpredictable and without boundaries or times. It could be an observation or a memory. It's been as simple as watching someone parallel park outside my office, or recalling a pearl of wisdom from a friend, business associate, or family member.
Consistently though, the ideas come and each month I (attempt to) convert them into a short message.
Look 4The Big (and Little) Ideas
Paying attention is the first big step. Good ideas are all around you. You just have to see them and notice them. Noticing things is one of the best pieces of practical advice I can give leaders. Too often I am rushing to the next appointment, or the next task, without catching the body language of that co-worker or the glance of my client.
The cues and the details surround us. Many of the concepts that we need to use to simplify our lives and achieve the goals are in front of us. We just have to see them (and write them down) so that we can apply them at a later time.
Look for your next breakthrough. It almost always comes - just not in expected ways or at the usual times.
A lot of people think those of us who are outgoing simply arrive that way.
Perhaps there are people in this world who just embrace a social setting, completely feel at ease, and can naturally even "take over" the room.
Most of us are more likely to be uncomfortable. Yet, almost everyone still finds themselves in situations where they have to mingle, network, communicate, or break into a crowd of people. It's not easy, especially if you're not wired for that setting.
It's also a good example with which everyone can identify because we've all been there.
A Plan4Your Next Anxious Moment
So before I go into these types of situations, I generally try to come up with a little plan. It helps me get as comfortable as I can be in a variety of settings. I think about whom I may see and the questions I can ask them. I focus on the other people there - paying attention to their names, thinking about what they may like to talk about, and I remember just about everyone is experiencing things the same way. I may even joke about that.
Simply put I make myself comfortable until I actually get that way. Then before you know it, you've made a friend, found a common connection, heard something inspiring, or learned something new.
A lot of business is that way too. Take that thing you are dreading, the challenge you face, that social situation, that hard-to-conquer problem, and in the midst of your discomfort, make yourself comfortable - until you actually are.
Outside Advice2Guide You
Proximity breeds repeat patterns.
It seems the closer we get to something, the more we accept it and just move into a routine. Some routines can be good; they can produce fruit that helps us grow and develop. Others trap us into a false sense of comfort. How do you know the difference?
There’s a reason many give the advice to step back and take a fresh look.
We get close to a goal and our perspective gets a little – off. Pulling back and getting a different look from someone could be very beneficial. Using a trusted outside source, who will ask some harder questions, can be even better.
Many of our clients bring us in to help them evaluate a situation or identify a potential problem. A lot of the time, we work directly with the owner or administrator of the business. Sometimes, the relationship is with the marketing manager or director. In either case, direct and honest feedback about a conundrum is one of the most valuable services we can offer.
During the early part of my career, I wasn’t always a fan of the outside consultant. Now that I am one I’ve seen the light (duh). Outside advice and a fresh look can do a few significant things:
A few months ago, I wrote about how rushed we tend to be and how most places of employment have fewer people to share the load. It is not a sign of weakness to reach outside of your department. Quite the opposite, actually, it’s a sign of the times and puts you in a position of strength.
One of the best meals I’ve ever had was in D.C. at a tapas restaurant. It was late in the evening and the kitchen was about to close. My friends and I simply requested the staff “bring us what you want”. The chef whipped up an amazing array of small plates with all kinds of tastes, textures, and flavors. We tried them all and were blown away. It was so good. And the meal was a memory.
Let the creative people create.
At our shop we often discuss how good advertising “interrupts.” Successful advertising stops people in their tracks and causes a change in their behavior or action. All too frequently, many clients want to be sure the creator lists the products, shows the address(es), talks about how long they’ve been in business, or about how much quality they offer.
While these elements are important, no longer can the creative person do what they do best. They are caged in by client-imposed rules and expectations.
Last year, when I decided to market my advertising agency in the business section of our local newspaper, I turned it over to my team and let them do what they do. It was a good exercise for me and the process created leading-edge advertising that accomplished just what we wanted it to.
Whether your reaction is "TRUMP!" or "TRUMP!?!" or "...trump..."we gotchya, and proved our point.
It’s the same process respectable creative teams usually follow for all clients.
Each piece is created based on the audience, the need, and the target. A custom solution is crafted with a specific goal being the primary driver. That’s the best way to use creative license to get the most effective results.
Every once in a while, let your design team bring you what they want. You may just find it’s exactly what you need.
“I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream.”
That might have been the first food marketing campaign in the history of America (or not).
Over the summer, I was thinking about how I order ice cream. When I’m in line, I think about all the different flavors and options and rattle around the possibilities in my tempted brain. Fruity goodness. Chocolate-chunky creaminess. Strawberry mixed with those bright red little pieces. Tropical coconut varieties. My mind bounces around as the line shortens.
Then – almost every time – I order mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone.
And almost every time - I eat it too fast.
Easy4Me to Pick
I love mint chocolate chip. You may love vanilla, peach, rocky road, or even strawberry cheesecake, but most everyone has a favorite flavor of ice cream.
So why do I order mint chocolate chip? I’ve determined it’s because in my mind I know I like it and it hits the spot every time. It’s my favorite. If I’m going to have ice cream, I feel like I should get my favorite flavor. The funny thing is – there’s no real reason (besides obvious weight gain) why I can’t have pistachio today and mint chocolate chip tomorrow – or the next time.
That’s how patterns develop and how we establish our fallback routine. It’s safe. It’s reliable. It’s trusted.
Well, maybe it’s time to break some patterns. Try a new approach to the way you work. It may just work out even better than you expected. If not, you can always go back to the tried and true pattern of mint chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle cone.
Like so many of you on February 4th, I sat watching the Super Bowl waiting to laugh. I wanted to laugh and I wanted to see advertising that entertained me.
Most of the night, I passed through the :30 second commercials tossed in front of me waiting and hoping for the next one to be a little funnier or more interesting. Usually, I was disappointed.
As a general rule at B2C Enterprises, we like to use our client’s airtime and space to interrupt and get attention. After we’ve caught your eye, we’ll try to educate, promote, sell, or create an action. But first, we have to make sure you’re engaged.
Humor is a wonderful way to break into someone’s space or to capture their interest.
When it’s appropriate, we use humor in our client’s marketing. It’s a fun way to communicate with clients and customers. Ultimately, people want to do business with someone they know or trust. They also want to continue doing business with those same people. Comical advertising that’s also successful can often create a more in-tune and deeper relationship with both your prospects and your current clients.
So, if you want to break things up a little bit or freshen up your outreach – try something new.
Laugh a little. Better yet, make others laugh – out loud if you’re good enough.
(As I wrote this, I couldn't help but also think about the below piece from our Tennessee office at the end of last year. Though it’s officially springtime and not the Christmas Season, I thought I’d wrap things up by passing it along to you.)
Sorry. I’m not going to produce this month’s B2Seed in poetry.
Like many of you, I grew up hearing nursery rhymes and, while I may not know why the itsy-bitsy spider crawled up the water spout, I can tell you one thing: Most anything that is universally familiar can become fodder for successful advertising.
Three or four years ago I had a client tell me they wanted something different than the normal, usual advertising so we tossed around a wide range of ideas and creative concepts as a team. One of the possibilities we liked a lot was involving stories familiar to most of us – tales like Goldilocks (“this _____ was just right”) or even Peter Piper. You get the idea. It seemed promising, but as we pulled it together it became obvious the concept was too far outside of that client’s comfort zone.
We moved along to the next round of creative concepts and only rarely thought of how much fun that campaign would have been to produce. Until, that is, I saw Geico Insurance using a similar approach in one of their far-out television commercials. They caught the attention of their audience with the first lines of childhood favorites, like Humpty Dumpty and Little Miss Muppet, and then changed the endings to convey the importance of having homeowners and renters insurance. Brilliant.
People love to toss around the “out of the box” terminology, but frequently don’t want the discomfort that comes with implementing or executing that way-out-thereconcept. And that doesn’t just apply to advertising or marketing. It is a common challenge with all kinds of business solutions. People think they want something new or different – until they are exposed to the new or different idea and see the risk associated with it.
To go forward you may just have to embrace something as crazy as a fable or a nursery rhyme. Just ask Geico.
B2C Enterprises is an award-winning advertising, marketing, and business development firm. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you with your marketing, or see some examples of our work, just call 540.904.1229.